Navigating through crowds at travel and airports is like riding a bicycle (which you could rent instead of a car)

Is it okay to travel again?

Based on the crowd at the airport, travelers respond with their feet. People are on the move and service providers are struggling to keep up.

On a recent trip to the Pacific Northwest and Juneau, I visited four airports, flew for two airlines, relaxed in two airport lounges, and helped my sister to celebrate his birthday. That last part makes me one of many travelers flying to see friends or relatives after more than a year of pandemic-induced closures.

For the outbound flight, the prices were quite high between Anchorage and Seattle. But after I signed up for Delta’s American Express card (and spent the required $ 2,000), I had 70,000 points to use.

Delta sells tickets to Seattle for as little as 5,500 miles. But because rental cars are too expensive, I booked a mile ticket to Eugene, Oregon. Right now, you can get a basic economy ticket for 6,000 miles. It costs almost double the cost to get a “Comfort +” seat with more legroom.

Arriving early for my 5:55 am flight, I looked up at the Sleeping Lady Lounge at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. It’s upstairs, behind the bronze statue of the late Senator Ted Stevens, between Halls B and C.

Delta Air Lines has installed a pop-up SkyClub in the lounge. So, if you have a subscription, you can have a drink and a few snacks while enjoying a beautiful view of the planes. You can also enter if you have the Delta “Reserve” American Express card. The cost is $ 550 per year.

Window seat at the new Delta SkyClub pop-up at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. (Scott McMurren)

Just down the hall, the Alaska Airlines lounge is a great way to escape airport noise, even though it was very uncrowded at 5 a.m. If you are not a member of the lounge, you can enter with a Priority Pass membership as long as it is not crowded. The Alaska Lounge has espresso drinks, which I really missed at the Delta Lounge. Most high-end credit cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve that I carry, offer a Priority Pass card as a perk. You can also access the Alaska Lounge for $ 25 if you load it onto the Alaska Airlines Visa card.

Delta and Alaska both fly from Anchorage to Seattle, so Delta’s plane was familiar. The big difference is the television in the back of the seat. There is a great selection of TV shows, movies, music, and games. I could see the biggest screens in first class. Alaska Airlines no longer offers portable media tablets, but instead offers a selection of entertainment to stream to your own phone, tablet or computer.

Upon arrival at Sea-Tac Airport, it was crowded and noisy. I didn’t want to pay the daily rate to visit the posh Delta SkyClub near gate A1. There are showers and plenty of comfortable seating. But my Priority Pass card allowed me to enter The Club at Sea-Tac in Hall A, next to my connecting flight.

If you are traveling with Alaska Airlines, the Priority Pass card gives you access to all three Alaska lounges, although there are capacity limits. In addition, no Priority Pass member is admitted after 8 p.m.

I was turned away from the lounges with my Priority Pass card, but not before the host offered to sell me a full price membership. In Seattle, Portland, and several other airports, Priority Pass is working with select restaurants to offer a $ 28 credit per person. In Seattle, there are two restaurants: Bambuza, a Vietnamese restaurant in the north terminal, and Trail Head BBQ in the main terminal. In Portland, Priority Pass works with the Capers Restaurant, which also has a nice wine bar.

There are other Priority Pass partner restaurants in Washington, DC, Boston, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

The flight from Seattle to Eugene was on a Delta E-175 jet. I never flew to Eugene. The spray was super smooth and comfortable. Even though this is a regional jet, there was plenty of room for my carry-on in the overhead compartment. Alaska Airlines also flies the E-175s. Here in the state, Alaska flies the E-175 to Fairbanks, King Salmon and Dillingham. There are no intermediate seats.

Since rental cars were too expensive ($ 175 to $ 340 per day) at Eugene, I rented a bike from Bicycle Way of Life for $ 20 per day. The trails at Eugene are great. The land is fairly flat, as the Willamette River crosses the city. It’s a real city by bike.

On the return trip to Seattle, Alaska Airlines offers more flights, although they are all on the de Havilland Dash-8-400 (Q400) series. Planes are smaller than jets, and you have to leave your hand luggage on a cart outside. But Alaska has a wonderful tradition on the hour-long flight: free beer and wine.

Traveling from Seattle to Juneau only takes a two-hour flight. Alaska flights were super full. They weren’t full, but those last seats can cost a fortune. Delta has a daily flight that departs at 9 p.m. It’s not a bad time – and the rate was half the price. But the Delta flight back from Juneau to Seattle is difficult: 5 a.m.

On the plane, everyone still wears a mask. The same is true at every airport, on every shuttle, and on the Seattle light rail line from the airport to downtown. The TSA mask mandate runs until September 13.

Even though we are done with the pandemic, the pandemic is not yet done with us. COVID-related international travel restrictions are still ongoing, as there are many countries where very few people have received the vaccine. Here in the United States, the new delta variant of the coronavirus could confuse hopes of a rapid recovery.

In Juneau, there is a cruise ship docked at the dock where crew members are in quarantine after an outbreak of COVID-19 on board. So far, 10 people associated with the American Constellation cruise have tested positive.

In Los Angeles County, new indoor mask warrants are in effect, even if you have been vaccinated.

My last flight back from Juneau to Anchorage was very familiar to me. Alaska Airlines Flight 65, which flies from Seattle to Ketchikan, Wrangell and Petersburg before landing in Juneau, was 2.5 hours late. The previous Juneau-Anchorage flight was unable to land due to the weather and continued to Anchorage. When we finally got on board, all the seats were occupied and it was raining outside. It was another normal day at the Juneau airport.

Once we got out of the clouds at about 10,000 feet the mountain tops were gorgeous. The view was wonderful from my seat by the window.

This tour taught me a few things. First, it felt good to travel, at least to the United States. Second, since I forgot how to pack, I packed too much. Third, finding a lounge at major airports is worth it, if only for a quieter environment. Finally, Alaskans have more options when it comes to air travel, which means lower prices and better service.


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